Are You Rigid or Flexible?

By Jay Forte

Do you remember Aesop’s fable “The Oak and the Reed”? It goes like this.

There once was a mighty oak who shared the bank of a river with a reed. The oak, proud of its strength and ability to stand up to the wind, critiques the reed as weak as even the slightest wind or the weight of a small bird can make it bend. The reed responds that it is not afraid of the wind because it has the ability to bend but not break. The mighty oak dismisses and praises its rigidity just as a strong wind comes and uproots the oak. The reed continues to bend and lives another day. The moral: Those who know how to bend and yield, succeed in life.

I think it’s pretty obvious that most of us are like the oak tree: rigid. Though there are benefits to this, it’s important to recognize that there are also some challenges. For example, when we are rigid, we hold on tightly to things we believe, even if we don’t know why we believe them. If a belief stops you from being your greatest self, or living authentically, or inhibits another person from doing the same, it is defined as a limiting belief.

Before you claim you don’t have any limiting beliefs, take a moment to reflect on this statement: we all have limiting beliefs. Many come from the way we were raised, what we were taught or who we spent (or spend) time with. Without recognizing limiting beliefs, you can find yourself remaining rigid in most situations when being flexible would allow you to accept new information, think more creatively and openly on your feet, update your beliefs and show up more successfully to each moment.

Let’s take a look at some powerful examples.

  1. Think about your political beliefs. How rigid are you in your beliefs about our current situation and your affiliation with one political party or another? How could you be open and flexible to define what you believe and not let others dictate this for you?
  2. Think about your role in the workplace. Where are you rigid in a way that does not serve you? How could being more flexible – more open, more creative, more supportive – to better encourage your performance and effectiveness? How could you encourage and support the ideas and perspectives of others, even if they may be contrary to yours?
  3. Think about your role as a parent. How rigid or flexible are you? How do you create and support meaningful rules for your kids but allow them change as your kids change? How do you involve your kids in establishing family rules and values to [appropriately] accommodate a variety of perspectives? How are you supporting your kids to be the best version of themselves, even if it isn’t in line with what you have planned for them?
  4. Think about your role as a person, in general. Where are you rigid in a way that alienates others? How could you be more flexible to allow others to be who they are instead of who you need or require them to be?

There isn’t one way to do anything; there are a lot of ways. Being rigid just rules out options and results in missing out on the great value others have to offer. To be successful in anything today, it requires you to be agile, flexible and responsive. It’s only with this perspective that you can truly benefit from the value in each moment.

When you stop and notice you, are you like the oak – standing rigid all the time – or are you more like the reed – flexible to accommodate life on life’s terms?

How you live is up to you. Rigid or flexible. It’s your choice.

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. Stop and notice. Are you more rigid in the most important aspects of your life or flexible?
2. What is something you can do today to become more flexible in one area of life that is of particular importance to you (work, relationships, etc.)?
3. What lessons do you need to learn to make each day happier, more successful and more loving?


Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer?

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Defining Success on Your Own Terms

By Kristin Allaben  

As a parent, I’m consistently inundated with advice and parenting do’s and don’ts. Don’t give them too much sugar. Put them to bed at the same time every night. Don’t let them watch too much TV. Be sure they play outside and get dirty. Do more of this. Don’t do that, ever.

It’s a lot to sift through, especially when some well-intentioned advice goes against your beliefs as a parent. Now add to that your adult to-do list, comprised of work responsibilities, household responsibilities and general responsibilities to ensure your own well-being, and it’s easy to see how parents can feel overwhelmed and unsuccessful. I admit there have been more than a few nights when I finally sit down after the kids are in bed and think, “Dishes are done and lunches are ready for tomorrow, but I still haven’t swept. The playroom needs to be picked up. The dog needs to go out and the cat’s food has to be refilled. I wanted to go for a run… I’m failing me and I’m failing them.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s your decision how you want to feel. It’s your decision how you will proceed. It really just requires a change in mindset.

Consider this: ask yourself what a happy and successful life looks like, knowing that it is healthy for this to evolve over time. What was a happy and successful life to your 18 year old self may not be realistic or relevant to your 40 year old self. Keep in mind that as a parent, you’re no longer responsible for just yourself. Your day-to-day has changed drastically as a result of your kids who rely on you for so much more than food, shelter and clothing; they need you to guide them as they start to develop their own sense of self. Remember this as you make the intentional effort to define your happy and successful life. Maybe your career goals have changed. Maybe you’re finding new ways to interact with your kids’ school. There are no boundaries; invent! It is up to you to decide what this looks like for you.

I recently read a profound article, “What if All I want is a Mediocre Life?” and it really gave me pause. I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what the writer said, though I think she limits herself – and her readers – by saying she wants a “mediocre life.”

Who decides what’s mediocre vs. successful, happy and perfect? You do.

“Mediocre” doesn’t have to be the word you assign to it. Success to you could be the “slow, simple life” the writer describes as mediocre. For some, that is perfection. For others, there’s more to do. Why assign a word like “mediocre” to what you define as your perfect life?

Many people refer to engagement in the workplace as the result of intentional alignment. It is the same in life – how well does your life align to what you feel to be important?

The next time you catch yourself feeling like you’re failing, check in with yourself. Why do you feel this way? Have you set unattainable standards for yourself? Are you living and acting on someone else’s definition of a great life?

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself how you define success. Start small, like identifying what a good day looks like. And then go from there.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What does a good day look like for you?
  2. What situations or events lead you to feel like you are failing or not enough?
  3. What is one thing you can do today to feel successful or enough?
  4. What does a happy and successful life look like to you?


Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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